16 Best Things To Do in San Juan Port: Complete Guide

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If you’re going to San Juan on a cruise, you’re in luck. When you disembark your cruise ship in San Juan, Puerto Rico, you’ll enter a city with a rich history.

The San Juan cruise port offers historical sites, architectural delights, gorgeous beaches, tropical rainforests, and adventurous excursions.

Founded in 1521 by Spanish Colonists, San Juan is the oldest European-established city under United States Sovereignty (it is neither a sovereign nation nor a U.S. State) and is the capital of Puerto Rico.

In this post, I share the best things to do in San Juan on a cruise, including shore excursions and inexpensive and free activities. You’ll also learn everything you need to know about visiting the San Juan cruise port for the day and get answers to commonly asked questions.

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San Juan Cruise Port 

San Juan Cruise Port

The port of San Juan has two cruise terminals, one in San Juan Bay and the other (Pan American Terminal) across from the bay.

Many Caribbean cruises have a port call in this historic city, including Carnival, Celebrity, Disney Cruises, Royal Caribbean, Norwegian Cruise Line, Regent Seven Seas, Costa, and AIDA.

Many of Old San Juan’s (also called Historic San Juan) best restaurants, bars, landmarks, and attractions are within walking distance of the Old San Juan Port, where most cruise ships port for the day.

What Cruise Passengers Need to Know About San Juan Cruise Port

San Juan Cruise Port


Because Puerto Rico is a territory of the United States, if you are an American citizen, you don’t need a passport to travel to the island. You should always have a valid ID (such as a driver’s license) with you.

Always verify the requirements of your specific cruise and itinerary to ensure that you have the correct documentation.


As a territory of the United States, the currency in San Juan is the U.S. dollar. Businesses in San Juan will accept cash, credit and debit cards.


The official languages spoken in Puerto Rico are Spanish and English. Only about 20% of Puerto Ricans speak English fluently, but many people involved in the tourism trade are bilingual. 

Time Zone

The time zone in San Juan Puerto Rico is Atlantic Standard Time, one hour ahead of the Eastern time zone. 


Puerto Rico is located roughly in the middle of the Antilles island chain, forming the dividing line between the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea.

The weather is classified as Tropical Marine, which means it is warm and humid year-round. In the winter, temperature ranges in the 80s, and in the summer, they hover in the 90s.

Precipitation is a way of life in San Juan, with an average annual rainfall of 62 inches. The dry season in Puerto Rico is from January to April. Hurricane season goes from June through November.

Getting Around San Juan

San Juan Cruise Port

The Island of Puerto Rico is 100 miles long by 35 miles wide. 

While there are plenty of activities within walking distance of the cruise ship ports, if you have found an adventure or excursion that is farther away, the island has a lot of options for getting around. 

On Foot

Old San Juan, including the San Juan National Historic Site, La Fortaleza, Paseo De La Princesa, and many shops and restaurants, are within walking distance of the cruise ship ports. 

Public Transit

The bus fare is 75 cents per person, and a trip on the Tren Urbano costs $1.50. You can purchase a transit pass for the bus or train at any Tren Urbano station.

If you want to adventure outside of Old San Juan, options for getting around town include taxis, Uber, buses, and San Juan’s light rail system, Tren Urbano.

Electric Bikes (E-Bikes)

E-bikes are a great way to see old San Juan and the nearby beaches and forts. There are many affordable rental options; some will even deliver and pick up bikes at your cruise ship pier.

Rentals include a helmet and bike lock, but beware that rain might shorten your bike expedition.

Taxi and Shuttle Service

If you’re looking to explore San Juan on your own, consider getting a taxi or booking a shuttle service. As you disembark your cruise ship, taxi drivers will be available to take you where you want to go.


With more than 4,000 Uber drivers on the island, you won’t have to wait long for an Uber driver to find you. The San Juan metro area will have the most Uber options.

Car Rentals

Many exciting activities are a few hours away from Old San Juan. If you have the time and the desire to explore farther away from the port, a car rental is an excellent option.

Most car rental companies in Puerto Rico include Avis, Enterprise, Alamo, Hertz, Thrifty, and National.

Puerto Rico has many toll roads, but rental cars are equipped with AutoExpreso stickers, a prepaid service for paying tolls. After the car rental is returned, you will receive a surcharge for any toll roads you traveled.

8 Best Shore Excursions in San Juan

There are excursions of every type available in the San Juan port. Whether you want to view gorgeous 16th-century architecture, learn about the past of Puerto Rico, relax on a white sand beach, or explore a tropical rainforest, San Juan is the gateway to many types of adventures.

Here are some of the best San Juan Shore Excursions:

1. San Juan National Historic Site

San Juan Cruise Port San Juan Historic Site

The San Juan National Historic Site is part of the U.S. National Parks Service and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The site includes Castillo San Felipe del Morro, Castillo San Cristóbal, most city walls, the San Juan Gate, and Fort San Juan de la Cruz.

Shortly after the Spaniards landed in San Juan, they discovered that bigger territories in Mexico and Central and South America held riches. The Spanish military fortified San Juan and established it as the “front door” to the Spanish colonies they were conquering in the New World. 

During a walking or self-guided tour at the San Juan Historic Site, you can view the fortifications, including forts and walls designed to defend San Juan during the 17th and 18th centuries. 

It is an easy walk to both forts from the cruise ship port, and kids will love walking through the dungeons, turrets, towers, and tunnels found here.

2. El Yunque National Forest

San Juan Cruise Port El Yunque rainforest

The sole tropical rain forest in the U.S. National Forest System is located 30 miles (about an hour) southeast of San Juan.

El Yunque National Forest has 29,000 lush acres of rainforest, including 25 miles of trails, waterfalls, natural water slides, and wildlife like the Puerto Rican parrot. Don’t miss the stunning mountain views from Yokahu Observation Tower (elevation 1575 feet).

Because of its distance, excursions to El Yunque will take most of the day. However, with a variety of options, including ziplines, horseback riding, and hiking, nature lovers will treasure the opportunity to experience this unique and stunning rainforest.

3. Museo de Las Americas

If you want to know more about the people who contributed to the varied and rich culture of Puerto Rico, this museum is a great excursion. Located in Old San Juan, the museum entrance fee is $6 for adults and $4 for children 12 and younger.

Be advised that most of the placards are written in Spanish.

4. Jet Ski Tour of San Juan Bay

Adventure and sightseeing collide in a Jet Ski Tour of San Juan Bay. Even if you’ve never tried water sports before, your guide will get acquainted with Jet Skis and accompany you on Jet Skis past cruise ships, the Governor’s Mansion (La Fortaleza), and other historical fortifications while splashing through crystal-clear waters.

5. Puerto Rican Food Tour

You can experience the fusion of Spanish and Caribbean foods with a Puerto Rican food tour. Several half-day food tour options will transport you to local farmer’s markets and coastal restaurants. You’ll get to try sample-sized foods that might include local favorites like bistec encebollado, mofongo, pastelon, pasteles, tripleta, and pernil.

6. La Fortaleza (Governor’s Mansion)

San Juan Cruise Port

Visit the first fortress completed in San Juan in 1540. La Fortaleza has been used to house the Governor of Puerto Rico since 1846.

30-minute guided walking tours are available Monday through Friday between 8:15 am and 3:30 pm. The tour includes the gardens and a look inside the building when the government is not in session. A photo ID is required for everyone 21 years of age or older.

La Fortaleza is an 18-minute walk from the port or a 9-minute drive. So, if you’re looking to do some sightseeing while you visit San Juan, this is a great option.

7. Day Trip to Isla De Vieques

If you have enough time in the San Juan port, consider a day trip to this small island located 7 miles off the coast of Puerto Rico.

Isla De Vieques will give you a more authentic Caribbean experience and a break from the tourists and other cruisers. If you stay into the night, you can see a unique phenomenon by kayaking in the world’s brightest bioluminescent bay.

Transportation to Vieques will take about 3 hours each way, including driving and a ferry trip. You’ll enjoy secluded beach coves, jeweled water, and sightings of wild horses that call Vieques home.

If you stay to view the Biobay at night, bring a towel and a long-sleeved shirt and pants to change into. You’ll also want to coat yourself in mosquito repellant (this bay is also called Mosquito Bay!) and bring a headlamp for safer nighttime kayaking.

8. Casa Bacardi Puerto Rico

San Juan Cruise Port Bacardi

Puerto Rico is known as the “rum capital” of the world. Bacardi Rum offers a full-service “From Ship To Pour” tour. You’ll start on a ferry in Old San Juan and then take a shuttle to Bacardi, Puerto Rico’s headquarters.

Several tours are available, ranging in price from $30 per person to well over $100 per person. Tours include a welcome cocktail and a movie at the Bacardi Visitor Center. You must be 18 years or older and have a valid ID.

5 Best Free Things To Do in San Juan Cruise Port

9. Plaza De Armas

San Juan Cruise Port

If you plan to walk through Old Town San Juan, stop by this town square, which dates back to Spanish colonial days. Grab a Puerto Rican pastry, sit on a bench, and watch the locals. There are also food carts and a small store/pharmacy here.

10. San Juan Bay

You can take a lovely water-level walking path from Castillo de Morro to Paseo De La Princesa. Enjoy the beautiful blue-green waters and imagine what life must have been like in this “Rich Port” during Spanish dominion.

11. Old San Juan

San Juan Cruise Port old san juan

Marvel at the colorful buildings and 16th-century architecture that greets you in Historic San Juan. Be sure to wear comfortable shoes as you walk along the cobblestone streets.

Guided tours are available, or you can peruse them alone. There are often musicians playing in the street, restaurants, and cocktail bars to stop and snack at. Several attractions, including Paseo De La Princesa and Plaza de Armas, are found in Old San Juan.

12. Cathedral of San Juan Bautista

History buffs visiting Old Town San Juan can explore the second-oldest church in the Western Hemisphere and the oldest church on U.S. soil. While the church’s history dates back to 1521, the building of San Juan Bautista that you’ll see today was built in 1540.

The cathedral has been ravaged by robberies, pillaging, and hurricanes over the centuries but stands as a monument to faith. It is also the site where the famous explorer Ponce De Leon is entombed.

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13. Paseo De La Princesa

Walk along a picturesque restored 19th-century esplanade (a long, level space separating a fortress from a town) called the Paseo De La Princesa (“path of the princess”). The tree-lined pedestrian walkway begins at the San Juan Gate and ends at the Bronze Races Fountain. Along the way, you’ll be able to view sweeping views of the bay, lovely sculptures, and, if you’re lucky, a vendor selling Piragua (shaved ice with sweet syrup).

This walk is especially beautiful mid-morning or early evening!

3 Best Beaches near San Juan Cruise Port

San Juan Cruise Port pina colada

A day at the stunning blue watered beaches in San Juan is a day well spent! Fortunately, there are beach options fairly close to the San Juan Cruise Port. Here are some of the best beaches for cruisers. 

14. Balneario El Escambrón (Escambron Beach)

Escambron Beach is family-friendly, with umbrella and chair rentals, public bathrooms, and food vendors nearby. This beach is a 10-minute car ride or a 17-minute bus ride from the cruise port, and it is one of the most popular beaches in San Juan.

There is a natural coral reef that protects El Escambron waters, which makes it perfect for snorkeling.

15. Condado Beach

Condado Beach fits the bill if you want to sit on soft sand and read (or watch surfers). This beach is 16 minutes away from the port by public transit or 9 minutes away by Taxi or Uber.

There are beach chairs and umbrellas to rent, but no food vendors. Due to strong rip tides, swimming is discouraged at Condado beach.

16. Isla Verde Beach

A 26-minute Taxi ride away from the Old San Juan port lies Isla Verde. Hotels and resorts line this 3-mile strip of beaches and boasts stunning white sand and crystal clear waters.

The beaches are on the coast of the city of Carolina and include Hobie Beach, Balneario de Carolina, and Pine Grove Surfing Beach. It takes time to get there, but it’s a great place to spend the day in the sun, sand, and surf.

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San Juan Cruise Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best time of year to visit San Juan? 

San Juan’s tropical climate means the temperatures are warm and humid year round. To avoid hurricane season, the best (and driest) time of year to visit is between January and April. 

How far is downtown San Juan from the cruise port? 

Most cruise ships stopping in San Juan, Puerto Rico dock at the Old San Juan port which puts you minutes from downtown. 

If your cruise is originating in San Juan, you might be departing from the Pan America terminal which is farther from downtown.

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Final Thoughts On Things to do in San Juan Cruise Port

The San Juan cruise port offers the opportunity to view some of the oldest buildings on U.S. soil, learn about the history of this former Spanish colony, relax on white sand beaches, and have an adventure in a rainforest.

No matter which excursion you choose, San Juan will surely be your favorite stop on your next Caribbean cruise.

Have you been to San Juan yet? What was your favorite part of this historical city?

If you found this article helpful, please pass it along. Please feel free to share on Facebook or PIN to your favorite Pinterest board (share buttons at the top). Thanks so much!



  1. Carolyn faul
    February 12, 2024 / 5:55 am

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    Thank you so much for so many great tips and hacks,
    Best Regards,
    CAROLYN Faul

    • February 12, 2024 / 7:46 pm

      I’m glad you enjoy my site and videos. Thanks for the feedback & for following along with our blog!


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